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Old geezer just reminiscing

Old 11-17-2015, 06:26 PM
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Default Old geezer just reminiscing

I was hoping to see what was going on in model rocketry these days. I started out in the '60s building Estes kits as a kid, gave it up when I discovered cars and girls. Picked up the hobby again in my late 30's, just looking for something to build and pass the time.......and then discovered High Power. Man, did my wallet take a beating.

This was in the early '90s, when HPR was all but unregulated, new things were coming out every week, and the only limit to size of rocket was size of wallet (I suppose that part, at least, hasn't changed much). I was experimenting with modifying Estes kits to use bigger motors, or more of them (still the black powder "D" engines mostly) I was in a hobby shop to buy something or other, and saw a copy of Tripoli's magazine. My first thought was, "You got to be kidding!! There's really stuff like this I can buy???" I had just finished building the large scale Honest John that Estes made then, it flew on a D motor, but I had modified it to fly on a cluster of 3 D motors, and boy, did it go. But it was just too small.

I bought an Aerotec kit, the Aerreaux (spelling?), it flew on F and G motors, and I was hooked, From then on, I had to introduce myself by saying, "Yes, my name is Ken, and I am a rocketoholic". Pretty soon, G motors weren't enough, and I found a local guy who wholesaled disposables, and started buying H motors. Back then, there was no graduated certification system, all you had to do was launch an H under supervision of someone else who had, and you could then go as big as you wanted.

All the available kits were unappealing to me, and I liked scale models, so I started scratch building. I built half a dozen models using G through I disposables. Aerotec had just released the first generation of their reloadable casings, so I bought a set of 38 mm and 54 mm casings, and all my models were built to hold the 54 mm casing, and I made an adapter to use the smaller 38mm casings.

Ignitors were stone-age, compared to what became available only a couple of years later. Thermalite and flashbulbs were the order of the day. Electric matches didn't exist for two or three years, and it was kind of hard to find your basic AG1B flashbulb, because cameras didn't use them any more.

I bought a copy of Peter Alway's book, Rockets of the World, and ended up building over a dozen sounding rockets and space launch vehicles. I started experimenting with the new electronics that were coming out, the small timers and altimeters using accelerometers, and built several two stage rockets, boosting them on single I or J motors, with an upper stage H. My largest single rocket was a scratch-built Honest John in 1/4 scale. Six feet long, with a 54mm motor mount, I flew it half a dozen times on J and K reloadables, and once on a full L disposable (rocket weighed 24 pounds at launch, and I got a bit over 9000 feet, my personal record). Recovery was almost perfect, it just landed about 1/2 mile from the launcher in a soybean field, and I almost didn't find it, because the rocket was green, and the parachute was also green, and hey, so were the soybeans.

Anyway, as time went on, I was finding that my wallet couldn't keep up with my aspirations for power and altitude, so I decided to give it up. Regulation was also starting to dictate many things, such as transportation of motors, and many of us felt it was an intrusion not needed.

I still think back on those days very fondly, from my first launch accident at age 12, when my Estes Ranger (3 C cluster) misfired and only two motors ignited; it land-sharked into the nearby cornfield which had been harvested and all the dried stalks were still there, and my Dad, and my friend's Dad and my friend and I had to run out and stomp out the fire that got started when the third motor ignited and lit the cornstalks.

My last launch was the Honest John on the L, along with a two stage Taurus-Tomahawk boosted on a I-211 and staged to an H100 (good ol' Smokey Sam). I got to watch an M launch of a large scale Tomahawk, I think he made almost 14,000 feet. Sold everything off over the next year or two, but I still have my 1st Edition copy of Rockets of the World.

And then, doggonit, I discovered radio control airplanes ten years later. Have since given that up, too.
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Last edited by khodges; 11-17-2015 at 06:42 PM.
Old 12-02-2015, 11:25 AM
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Hi Ken,

I can relate to your story. I went as far as G and was thinking of getting a level II cert when the ATF regulations started. I gave up rocketry due to cost. I was also getting into Pattern about the same time. Couldn't afford both.

I now just hung up RC for pretty much the same reason. All the vendors are now catering to the ready made stuff, kits ,wood, covering, and nitro is getting harder to come by, and the new regulations by the FAA and DOT are making our local governments pass and support laws that really restrict any type of flying.

I am now looking at building a sailboat.
Old 04-04-2017, 06:52 PM
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That's one cool lookin model ya got there! I always liked the looks of the Army HJ.
Old 02-14-2020, 09:40 PM
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Nice model !
Old 03-09-2020, 10:03 PM
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I toyed with rockets back in the 1990s, I was a kid/teen. They were fun. My awesome wife put up wit me reminiscing about my first rocket, a Century UFO Invader, and she actually managed to piece together a complete kit for me and give it as a Christmas present a while back. Still need to put it together.

I can only imagine the ATF silliness the rocket guys have to deal with. I can see how heavy-handed regulation could put people off serious rocketry. It looks like they're trying to do the same with RC aircraft now. Strange as it may seem, I feel less harassed and less restricted flying my real airplane. Full-scale is regulated a lot, sure, but it's "legitimized" to the point that the authorities (federal and local) mostly leave the little guys alone.....and no tracking/remote ID (I didn't bite on the new ADS-B stuff).


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